REGION — Citing improving conditions in hospitals, state health officials today lifted all regional stay-at-home orders, including in the 11-county Southern California region, but counties will still be subject to
the tight regulations of the restrictive “purple” tier of economic reopening guidelines.
The regional stay-at-home order was imposed in Southern California late last year when intensive-care unit capacity dropped below 15%. The regional capacity subsequently dropped to an adjusted 0%.
But state officials said Monday that with hospitalization numbers trending downward, four-week projections now indicate ICU capacity will rise above the 15% threshold.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Dr. Tomas Aragon, CDPH director and state public health officer. “Together, we hanged our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”
Although the state order has been lifted, individual counties are still able to impose stricter restrictions than the state.
But in general, lifting the state order could mean a resumption of outdoor dining, as well as at least some services at gyms, barbershops and nail salons, among other businesses.
A possible resumption of outdoor dining could be the biggest economic boon of the announcement. On Sunday, the California Restaurant Association sent its members a letter announcing the pending state decision, saying, “we thought you’d like to know this good news.”
The news came as San Diego County public health officials reported 1,637 new COVID-19 cases and 31 additional deaths Sunday — the 55th consecutive day with more than 1,000 new cases.
The county’s cumulative case total increased to 227,195 and the death toll is now at 2,375.
There were 57 more COVID-19 patients reported hospitalized in the county Sunday, with four more San Diegans moved into intensive care.
Over the past 30 days, a 10% increase in the number of hospitalizations has been recorded, with a 21% increase in patients in ICUs, according to the county’s Health and Human Services Agency.
The data showing a decline in cases and overall hospitalizations, but an increase in ICU patients and deaths, might indicate a tapering down of a major wave of the pandemic.
A median two-week period between infection and first symptoms along with additional time between symptoms and hospitalization, serious symptoms and death could mean these record numbers are from people who were initially infected around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said last week that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the numbers, but wanted to see a longer downward trend and warned the public not to become complacent.
“Numbers can rapidly turn around and go the other direction,” he said. Eleven new community outbreaks were reported as of Saturday, while 45 have been recorded in the past week, tied to 192 cases.
With 196,152 total vaccinations administered, and 31,189 people having received both doses as of Thursday, at least 1% of the county’s population over the age of 16 has been inoculated. Fletcher said the number of vaccines administered is likely much higher, but health providers have been slow to update.
A second “Vaccination Super Station” opened Thursday in Chula Vista. A smaller vaccine site opened Sunday in National City. These are intended to provide relief to the hard-hit South Bay region and its Latino population.
Latinos make up around 34% of the county’s total population but comprise 56.9% of all COVID-19 cases, 54.2% of all hospitalizations from the virus and 44.1% of the deaths.